Stellenbosch University Choir

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Stellenbosch University Choir
Founding 1936
Genre Varied
Members 80-120
Affiliation Stellenbosch University

7th World Choir Games, Cincinnati, USA (2012):

  • Category: Mixed Choirs, 93.55 (Gold: Category Winner)
  • Category: Musica Sacra, 96.88 (Gold: Category Winner)
  • Category: Popular Choral Music, 91.25 (Gold: Runner-up)

Stellenbosch University Choir (Afrikaans: Stellenbosch Universiteitskoor) is a Choir attached to Stellenbosch University. Founded in 1936, it is the oldest choir in South Africa.[1] The current conductor, André van der Merwe, was appointed at the beginning of 2003.[2] The Stellenbosch University Choir has toured overseas extensively and won critical acclaim for its performances.[3] The choir is viewed as a leading South African choral ensemble.[4]

In September 2006 the Stellenbosch University Choir celebrated 70 years of choral activities with a reunion – 400 former members attended the festive occasion. This reunion was living testimony to the positive impact that the choir has had on choral activities in South Africa since 1936.[5] In September 2007 the Stellenbosch University Choir hosted a choral festival (KUESTA) where South African university choirs gathered in Stellenbosch for a weekend of choral music.[5]

2011 saw a tour to the Southern Cape[6] as well as a successful visit to the University of Pretoria for the bi-annual KUESTA choral festival.[7] The choir also held their 75th reunion over the first weekend of September 2011, which was attended by over 300 former members of the choir.[8] An album, 2011 In Concert was also released, containing live performance recordings made in the Endler Hall during a Gala concert and in the Musaion at the University of Pretoria during KUESTA.[9]

In the South African context, it becomes increasingly important for the choir to reach out to choirs in less fortunate communities.[10] During 2005 and 2006 the choir hosted an orphan children’s choir from Kayamandi – not only teaching music skills to the children, but also making the University Choir aware of the value of community service.


The choir was founded in 1936 by William Morris and has established itself as one of the best choirs in South Africa and the world[11][12]!

Being the oldest continually running choir in the country, the Stellenbosch University Choir has a rich legacy that is celebrated by old members every five years at the reunion. The last reunion was in 2011 and marked the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the choir. The reunion was attended by over 300 members, both past and present, and from all the corners of the world.[8]

The current as well as future success of the choir depends largely on the unique heritage and spirit within the choir community which is supported by the choir members, family and friends, as well as the newly established Stellenbosch University Choir Fund.[13]

List of conductors[edit]


As of February 2013 the choir is ranked as the best amateur choir in the world by Interkultur, as well as being in the top ten list for the following categories (rank): Children's and Youth Choirs (5), Mixed Choirs (1), Sacred Music and Music of the Religions (1), and Pop, Jazz, Gospel, Spiritual (10).[14]


At the 7th World Choir Games in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, the choir participated in three categories, namely Mixed Choirs, Musica Sacra (Sacred Music) and, for the first time,[15] Popular Choral Music. Here the choir received the title of "Champion of the World Choir Games" for two of these categories: Mixed Choirs with 93.50 points and Musica Sacra with 96.88 points as well as receiving a gold medal, and coming second, in the Popular Choral Music category with 91.25 points.[16]

Not only was their score of 96.88 points in Musica Sacra the highest in the category, but also the highest score ever attained by any choir in any category at the World Choir Games.[17]


The Choir took part in the World Choir Games in Shaoxing, China, in July, and won the "Champion of the World Choir Games" title in two categories. They received 95.75 for the category: Mixed Choirs and 90.88 for the category: Musica Contemporanea (Contemporary Music).[18]

The World Choir Games is the largest event of its kind. From 15 to 26 July 2010, Shaoxing hosted more than 20 000 choristers from 472 choirs and 83 countries.[19] South Africa was represented by three choirs: Stellenbosch University Choir, Tygerberg Children's Choir and Kearsney College Choir.[20] Stellenbosch University Choir received the highest score (95.75) of any choir participating in the competition, in the category for which they competed against 28 other choirs.[21]


In July 2008, the choir participated in the World Choir Games[22] in Graz, Austria, where they received a gold medal in each of the three categories in which they participated. The choir was amongst 22 other choirs from South Africa who were selected to participate in this competition of more than 400 choirs. They won the category "Musica Sacra: Open Category" with 92.13 points and placed second in the category "Gospel & Spiritual" with 92.13 points. In the category "Mixed Youth Choirs", the choir came in fourth with 85.25 points.[23]

At the end of August 2008 the Choir was ranked as the top choir in the category Musica Sacra (Sacred Music) and the fourth best choir overall in the world according to the Musica Mundi World Ranking List[24]!


In July 2004, the choir won the category "Youth Choirs" at the World Choir Games in Bremen, Germany with 93.13 points.[25]

A definite highlight for the choir in 2004 was their participation with the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra in Sinfonia Africana by Capetonian composer Hendrik Hofmeyr.[26] This groundbreaking[27] symphony (with an Afrikaans text) is scored for soprano, choir and orchestra.


Every year, the Choir sets out to improve on work done during the previous year. In this respect, there is a definite focus on assembling the repertoire. The repertoire usually incorporates pieces that aim to inspire both the choir members as well as the general audience, and to prepare the choir for future performances and events such as the World Choir Games.[28]

With international events such as these, the repertoire mainly consists of pieces specifically selected to contribute to the overall success of the choir in the specific category of participation. These pieces are often vocally and artistically challenging as well as innovative and unique, with a major focus on modern compositions and uniquely adapted classical favourites.

Recorded media[edit]

The Stellenbosch University Choir usually records their full repertoire at the end of each year, normally in September, in the modern Endler Hall at the Conservatory of the University of Stellenbosch. The goal is to release an album every two years, although some exceptions have been made. Other recordings include live concert recordings and are usually sold for a limited time after the recorded performance. These usually include only some of the works prepared as part of the year's repertoire.[29]


Other recordings[edit]


  1. ^ "Stellenbosch University Choir". Retrieved 2007-03-02. 
  2. ^ "USK Conductor". 
  3. ^ "Stellenbosch University Department of Music". 
  4. ^ "Stellenbosch University Choir". Retrieved 2007-03-02. 
  5. ^ a b "Stellenbosch University Choir Home Page". 
  6. ^ "USK tour to PE". 
  7. ^ "KUESTA – USK". 
  8. ^ a b "USK 75th Reunion". 
  9. ^ "2011 In Concert". 
  10. ^ "Stellenbosch University Choir Disassembly Cancelled". 
  11. ^ a b "USK History". 
  12. ^ "USK Today". 
  13. ^ "USK Fund". 
  14. ^ "Interkultur World Ranking List". Retrieved 2012-10-13. 
  15. ^ "Press release: 2012 World Choir Games achievement". 
  16. ^ "Results: 2012 World Choir Games". 
  17. ^ "New World (Choir Games) Record!". 
  18. ^ "Results: 2010 World Choir Games". 
  19. ^ Retrieved 2010-08-16
  20. ^ Retrieved 2010-08-16
  21. ^ title = Results: 2010 World Choir Games Retrieved 2010-08-16
  22. ^ "Musica Mundi: World Choir Games". Retrieved 2008-08-09. 
  23. ^ "Results: 2008 World Choir Games". Retrieved 2010-08-30. 
  24. ^ "World Choir Games Top 10". Retrieved 2010-08-30. 
  25. ^ "Results: 2004 World Choir Games". Retrieved 2010-08-30. 
  26. ^ "Hendrik Hofmeyr". 
  27. ^ "Synfonia Africana". 
  28. ^ "USK Repertoire". 
  29. ^ "Stellenbosch University Choir Recordings". Retrieved 2012-01-23. 
  30. ^ Headline | Stellenbosch University Choir
  31. ^ 2011 Recordings | Stellenbosch University Choir
  32. ^ Laudate | Stellenbosch University Choir
  33. ^ Illumina | Stellenbosch University Choir
  34. ^ Sinfonia Africana | Stellenbosch University Choir
  35. ^ 2010 Recordings | Stellenbosch University Choir